Phone scams can often be difficult to recognise. They can range from anonymous text messages and ghost calls to cheap ringtone promotions and insurance deals. Below is a list of 10 common phone scams with advice on how to avoid them and how to report suspicious calls or text messages.
1. Windows scam
This is a highly-reported scam where the caller says they are calling from Windows and tells you that you have a virus on your computer. The caller goes on to warn the customer that their computer will become unusable if the problem is not fixed and offers to guide you through steps to fixing the problem. Instead of helping you he directs you to download a program that asks you to pay a fee. Windows has warned that they never contact a customer unless you have reported and registered a problem yourself.
2. Microsoft technical department scam
This scam is very similar to the Windows phone scam. Cold callers target residents pretending to be from Microsoft and say something like “we have reason to believe there’s a problem with your computer”. They will then ask you to log into a website that will give the caller total control over your computer. This will allow them to obtain all sorts of personal details without your consent.
3. Sky Protect scam
Sky customers have reported calls that claim to be from Sky Protect – the broadcaster’s insurance policy. These callers tell you that you should get cover for your Sky service and ask you to verify your bank details – they may even know your Sky account number which may make this seem more legitimate. If you get a call like this and feel it may be suspicious just put the phone down and contact Sky yourself – they’ll be able to tell you if the call was genuine.
4. BT disconnecting phone scam
BT has warned their customers about scammers posing as BT staff. The so-called BT representative tricks customers into revealing their bank details by claiming that they have an overdue bill that needs paying immediately or else their phone service will be disconnected. If a customer refuses the scammers tells the customer to put down the phone and try to call someone. When the customer does this they are unable to use their phone as the fraudsters have not put down the phone on their side, which cons people into thinking that they are being genuine. The scammers call back minutes later and attempt to collect personal details in order to fix the problem.
5. Missed calls scam
When you receive a missed call from a number you don’t recognize, do you call it back? Most people do but they are unaware that they may be redirected to a premium rate service. The scam is simple, scammers make ‘ghost calls’ to a list of numbers, but never complete the calls. You will then get a missed call on your phone and call it back and you will be charged for the cost of this call. Premium rate numbers usually start with 076, 090 and 190.
6. Ringtone scams
Ringtone scams tend to be targeted at young adults. The scam attracts victims by offering them a ‘free’ ringtone, which seems like a tempting offer at the time. By accepting the ringtone offer users are unaware that they’re actually subscribing to a service that will continue to send ringtones and charge a high premium rate for them.
7. Telephone lottery scams
The telephone lottery scam tricks customers into thinking they’ve been entered into a prize draw. Later, they find out they’ve won a prize, but in order to claim it they must first send money to pay for admin fees etc. Obviously, the prize does not exit, but the scammer claims your money and your personal details.
8. Wrong message scams
Wrong message scams are hard to recognize because they look like a normal text message you might receive from a friend. If you receive a message from an unknown number it’s tempting to reply, but if it’s a scam then the text will cost you a packet . If you don’t recognise a number then don’t text back. If it’s a genuine text the person will call you back – after all they have your number.
Keep a close eye on your phone bill for any suspicious numbers.
9. Mobile phone insurance
After purchasing a new mobile phone customers often receive hoax calls from the shop you brought it from. They offer you a mobile phone insurance deal that is too good to turn down, but you must accept and pay on the spot or they say the deal will no longer be available to you. If you accept the offer you are asked for your bank details, but later discover your phone is not insured at all.
HM Revenue & Customs recently warned customers about hoax calls from scammers pretending to be the taxman. The caller tells you that you’re due a tax rebate and asks you for your bank details so the money can be paid into your account. Of course the reality is there is no money and the scammer obtains your bank details for personal use.
- Join TPS (Telephone preference service), the free service enables you to opt out of unsolicited sales or marketing calls
- Keep a close eye on your phone bill for any suspicious numbers
- Never give out your bank details over the phone
- Don’t publish your mobile phone number online
- Warn your elderly relatives, as scammers are more likely to target older or less tech-savvy households.
- Check that a company is legitimate by asking for full contact details
- Contact PhonepayPlus (the regulator of premium-rate telephone services) if you suspect you might be a victim
- Tell Action Fraud about your experiences – they’re the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre
- Delete messages and ignore phone calls from unknown numbers
- Tell your provider by forwarding spam texts and nuisance calls from you mobile to 7726 for O2, T-Mobile and Orange customers; 87726 for Vodafone customers and 37726 for 3 Mobile customers.